“Lose weight” was the No. 1 New Year’s resolution made last year, according to a report published by University of Scranton researchers on Jan. 1, 2014. One reason that prompts this vow is holiday weight gain.
A classic study conducted in 2000 by scientists at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston found the average weight gain of 195 adults during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was less than one pound.
However, 14 percent gained 5 pounds or more, and these pounds represented more than half of the study participants’ total weight gain for the entire year.
The second big reason for resolution setting is that people don’t keep their pledges long. The Scranton researchers found that 25 percent of those who made resolutions didn’t keep them for even a week.
Forget making strict New Year’s resolutions. Instead, make small, practical dietary changes that can easily become part of a healthy lifestyle. For example, eat a wide variety of healthful foods the majority of the time. Choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean dairy products and protein foods at most meals, and eat less-nutrient-dense foods such as cakes, cookies, pies and chips far less.
This creates a best-of-both-worlds balance. You can eat everything you love and get plenty of nutrients, all in a total calorie package that adds up to a healthy weight or body weight.
Grains. Choose whole grains or grains that still haven’t lost their nutrient-filled bran and germ in processing. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice and whole oats. Whole grains contain B vitamins, minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as dietary fiber.
One serving equals a half cup of cooked rice, pasta or hot cereal; 1 slice of bread; or 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal. Adults need six to eight servings daily on a weight-maintaining diet of 2,000 calories a day.
Fruits and vegetables. Select fresh first, followed by frozen, canned and dried. Generally, the deeper the color, the more nutritious. Consume more by getting out of the rut of eating the same old thing.
Frieda’s, a specialty produce company in Los Angeles, challenges its customers to “Eat one fruit a day that scares you”. This could be, for example, a cherimoya, durian or rambutan. Extend the adventure to vegetables, too. Anyone for some leafy green gai choy, chayote squash or Thai eggplant?
One serving equals 1 cup of raw leafy greens, a half cup of cooked fruits or vegetables, or one average piece of fruit. Adults need to eat eight to 10 servings daily.
Dairy. Go for skim, fat-free or non-fat milk and yogurt. Look for low or no fat in non-dairy milks such as those made from soy, rice or nuts. Most cheeses are high in fat. Low-fat alternatives are usually tasteless so it’s better to eat the full-fat variety and trim portion size. Dairy products are a good source of bone-building calcium. Even non-dairy milks are fortified with this nutrient. One serving equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 1 ounce of cheese. Eat two to three servings per day.
Protein. Fork into lean meat, poultry and fish as well as dried cooked peas and beans, including soybean products. Everything from our hair to toe nails, plus blood and bones in between, contains essential body-building protein. Adults need 6 ounces of protein or less daily. One serving of meat, poultry or fish equals 3 ounces or the size of the palm of your hand, or a half cup of cooked peas or beans.
Finally, cut down on fats, sugars and salt. Sunkist Growers in California has come up with a way to cut down on salt in cooking by using fresh lemons. Specifically, research shows a tasty result if you use a quarter teaspoon of salt plus a half teaspoon of lemon zest before or during cooking in a 2-4 serving size recipe, followed by 2½ teaspoons of lemon juice after cooking.
Adding the juice last gives a more powerful flavor punch, helps green vegetables maintain their bright color and doesn’t cause texture changes in meats.
Make these tips your resolutions and life healthfully to enjoy many new years to come.
Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and a regular contributor to The Triton. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.